In the wake of the economic crisis that reduced Argentina to Third World status, some Americans found a good reason to visit and explore the country: dirt cheap real estate.
Filmmaker Avi Lewis and writer Naomi Klein are two Canadians who have relocated in Argentina in recent years. But their political conscience led them beyond the status of exploitative tourists and into a genuine investigation of the culture and society. The result is the engaging documentary, The Take.
This is documentary-making in an urgent, consciousness-raising mode – a sort of letter from within Argentina to the rest of the world. One might imagine, remembering the thrust of Klein's best-seller No Logo, that the title refers to yet another corporate ransacking.
In fact, the subject here is a populist take-back by a group of workers of Argentina. They occupy and re-tool the factories that once employed them, but now stand unused. However, once they have made this bold move, they must engage with the fraught structures of law and government. The film records a tense waiting game, and while it does so it enters the lives of several individuals who vacillate between hope and despair.
Lewis and Klein capture well this special case of popular resistance which creates a spirited solidarity, but does not rely on rigid adherence to a collective, ideological line. Differences in attitude and personality are warmly, at times humourously observed.
The film devotes much energy to conveying the historical context of the troubles in Argentina. If its account of recent catastrophes in Argentine government unfolds at breakneck speed, that is partly because the filmmakers are trying to keep up with every move in a volatile, sometimes bewildering situation.
There are disconcerting passages in which The Take resembles a left wing Sixty Minutes in its breathless, high-key style and fearless investigative manner (including a sequence where the filmmakers try to dodge street violence). But there is no doubting the significance and worth of the information imparted.
© Adrian Martin August 2005